Nestled in the leafy suburb of Lyons is a local café that’s taking a stand for animal welfare. Stand By Me has been serving delicious fare to Canberrans for six years now but what keeps so many locals loyally returning goes beyond the flavours of the food.
On a busy Tuesday morning, one of Stand By Me’s regular customers, Michelle Robertson, is tucking in to a delicious breakfast of splashed avocado, poached eggs and Stand By Me’s signature pickled chilli chimichurri. But Ms Robertson isn’t just any customer – she’s the CEO of RSPCA ACT and she chooses her cafes based on more than just the menu.
“As the CEO of RSPCA ACT, I think it’s important to be authentic, and that means thinking about animal welfare all the time, including the welfare of animals that supply us with the products we eat,” Ms Robertson said.
“It’s a simple thing. No matter where I eat out, I always ask, ‘Tell me about your eggs?’ And if they can’t, then I just order something without the eggs.”
In Australia, eggs make it onto most breakfast plates and, sadly, they represent one of the most serious animal welfare issues today. Battery cages in the layer hen industry confine these social and curious animals to a space that works out to less than an A4 piece of paper each.
It’s a miserable life in which the birds are prevented from exhibiting simple natural behaviours such as stretching their wings, perching or laying eggs in a nest.
Even though so many Australians are choosing cage-free eggs when buying their groceries, over 10 million hens are still living in these cruel battery cages across the country, and many of their eggs are ending up in the food service industry.
To help conscious consumers on the go and help support the businesses keeping animal welfare front of mind when sourcing ingredients, the RSPCA runs a directory of local humane eating spots called Choose Wisely.
For Stand By Me co-owner Ben Holland, animal welfare was always going to be a major part of the ethos.
“It was a big focus for us when we were first starting the business. I think it’s quite tough when you’ve never really had a business before to immediately do that and you realise that you can’t get everything you want straight away when it comes to sourcing higher welfare animal ingredients,” Mr Holland said.
“But eggs were a big thing and it didn’t take us long to realise there were local cage-free producers.”
The café now sources its free range eggs from Long Paddock Farms in Bungendore, meaning customers are not just eating higher welfare eggs, they’re supporting local farmers.
Stand By Me also sources free range pork and chicken for the menu.
In recognition of their higher welfare sourcing, Stand By Me is listed on the Choose Wisely directory.
For Ms Robertson, being able to support local businesses that are prioritising animal welfare is another great way the RSPCA can contribute to the community. And given the close proximity of the RSPCA ACT shelter to Lyons, it gives her a chance to reconnect with former shelter animals that have found their new homes.
The café has multiple dog-friendly seating options and Mr Holland points out that many locals bring their dogs in every week, making them regular canine clients of the café.
Ms Robertson loves that she can run into people with dogs they’ve adopted from the RSPCA, especially when the dog in question has had a tough start to life.
Recounting a recent time when she spoke to a family about their dog, a formerly anxious shelter dog who has flourished in his new life, her eyes light up.
“That was a good day. When I drove away, I was like, yep, that’s why I love my job,” Ms Robertson said.
Stand By Me is just one of the many local cafes choosing to respond to customer demands and place higher welfare ingredients at the heart of their businesses. And they know their clientele appreciate it.
“People will mention when they’re paying how great it is that we’re serving free range eggs and meat. I do think we get people who wouldn’t eat here if we didn’t,’ Mr Holland said.
Luckily, for Canberrans who want to choose humane food and support farm animal welfare, Stand By Me is a friendly, and delicious option for eating out locally.
For other options in the ACT or across Australia, search for your local humane food eating spot on the Choose Wisely directory.